Michigan Student Assembly Rep. Anton Vuljaj and Engineering senior Joel Alan Schweitzer have been charged with felonies for allegedly crashing a rival party’s website during the March 2006 student government elections, according to documents obtained by The Michigan Daily.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said arrest warrants have been issued for two University students in connection with the attacks. Brown won’t name the defendants until the arrests are carried out. The pair could be arrested as soon as today, she said.
Vuljaj and Schweitzer are each being charged with one count of use of a computer to commit a crime, a felony that carries penalties of up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and interference with an electronic communication device, a high court misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to two years in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The charges stem from an alleged denial of service attack – an attempt to crash a website’s server – on the Michigan Progressive Party’s website during the election period of March 2006. The attack came in the form of a computer program that downloaded a single file on rival MPP’s website over 200,000 times in an attempt to overload its server.
MSA parties often route voters through their websites to the official polling site.
At the time of the attack, Vuljaj was a part of the Students 4 Michigan party, which narrowly defeated MPP in most races in the election, including the race for MSA president and vice president.
After the scandal, Vuljaj resigned from his representative position on LSA Student Government. In March of this year, Vuljaj was elected to MSA as a Business School representative.
Vuljaj attended last night’s MSA meeting but refused to comment on the situation. Schweitzer, who wasn’t known to be connected to any of the parties, also declined to comment, as did current MSA President Zack Yost.
S4M disbanded after the 2006 election, but many of its former members, including Yost, founded the Michigan Action Party, which now controls the assembly.
Brown gave a series of reasons for the 19-month delay between the incident and the charges.
She said computer crimes take longer to investigate than most crimes. The case posed no threat to public safety, so it was relatively low on DPS’s priority list, she said.
A different investigator also took control of the case part of the way through, Brown said.
She said DPS turned the case over to the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office six months ago.
The impending arrests will be the latest chapter in the 2006 election saga that nearly saw the top three vote-getting parties get disqualified for elections violations amassed during the process.
Former MSA President Nicole Stallings, who won the presidency on the S4M ticket in the 2006 election, said she tried to change the partisan culture while she was in office, but another scandal-laden election wouldn’t be surprising.
“Do I think it could happen again? Probably,” she said. “Hopefully people have a lot less motivation to be so cutthroat, party-wise.”
Stallings has repeatedly denied any connection with the attacks.